• Yakupov and the Media

    by  • January 10, 2013 • Hockey • 42 Comments

    Lowetide has a piece up on the curious way in which the media seem to have the knives out for Yakupov this morning, which prompted Dave Staples to chime in with a sort of defence of the media. I kind of agree with Lowetide’s point that the media seems to have a curious willingness to pick at Yakupov that they didn’t with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall. It was this passage from Staples’ piece that really caught my eye though:

    When Cole, Jones and Matheson criticized Yakupov in Russia, they actually had a fair point.

    Hockey is a hard, hard game to play at the highest levels. It takes tremendous commitment, discipline, courage, talent. It also takes singular focus. A player does not need distractions, but he creates one when he fails to do something so simple as talk to reporters when they have a few questions.

    Nothing much was required of Yakupov here. Just give a few canned answers to a few canned questions. No big deal. Simple. Just do it, then move on to the important stuff.

    Did Cam Cole, Terry Jones and Jim Matheson, all of whom were reporting from the comfort of their couch, have a fair point? Well, I’ve talked to someone who was at the WJC and I’m told that the setup there was a bit different from the North American setup. To start with, there was no dressing room access. Players were brought into a mixed zone to speak to the media. The Russian PR people seemed to be the ones deciding who would come out to talk. It’s not like Yakupov was hiding in the trainer’s room while a sad pack of media gathered around his stall. It’s probably also worth mentioning that the Russian PR guys care less about placating the rapacious Canadian media pack than, say, Hockey Canada or the Edmonton Oilers do.

    Second, this idea that the captain is supposed to double as the PR guy is apparently not universal. I’m told that Russian journalists didn’t really understand why this was a thing in Canada, because it’s not the custom there that the captain (or all players) are available after every game. Anecdotally, (which I suppose this all is), I watch a lot of European soccer and I notice that there’s far less availability on a day-to-day (or even game-to-game) basis to the players. They do tend to occasionally do great interviews. I actually prefer what I’ve perceived as being the European media culture – less access but better access when it happens. Yakupov, by the way, has done some great interviews with Andrey Osadchenko at Oilersnation.

    So Cole, Jones and Matheson were complaining about something that they weren’t seeing first hand and may well not have entirely understood. Fair point? I don’t really think so. It’s probably more interesting to wonder why they’re so quick to jump on him though. Lowetide talks about the possibility of a bias against him, which I think is probably fair. Let’s look at some stuff that’s appeared on the Journal’s website:

    A few more rough edges come to mind. When asked about the so-called Russian factor, the fear, that is, that a Russian-born player will bolt for the KHL as soon as the going in the NHL gets tough, Yakupov was ready. He is a Muslim, he said, not a Russian. His word means something, by implication, unlike a Russian’s word would.

    Well, considering the guy’s been in Canada for quite some time now, one would have expected someone could have (or should have) told him that race labels do not define people, and his reply was perfectly offensive.

    I’m not entirely sure that that’s what Yakupov was getting at there. I took it as kind of an awkward way of saying that he doesn’t have the same ties to Russia as guys of Russian ethnicity, which doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, given the issue. Also, HIS response was offensive? I’m not sure how it’s any more offensive than the question, which I don’t think was offensive either, but if we’re reading race into things, it goes both ways.

    Then there was this:

    That latter notion fits in rather neatly with the traditional Russian approach: a contract is valid only when it suits us. If you have a problem with this, you have a problem. We don’t. Never had. Here’s a quarter and call somebody who cares.

    In the ideal world, the Sting will not release Yakupov from his contract, and he would either return to Canada, or sit at home in Nizhnekamsk, biting his nails. The quarter of a million of the Tatar locals would be happy to see him walking up and down the paths along the Kama River. If he’s lucky, nobody will rob him at gunpoint.

    It’d be kind of fun if the Oilers got Seth Jones in the draft, just to see what the Journal would write about him. If you’re Jim Matheson, and you’re upset that Yakupov isn’t giving you the sort of access that Wayne Gretzky did, despite being younger than your son, maybe you should talk to the web side of your operation and ask them to ease up on calling the guy a racist from a crime ridden culture who shouldn’t be trusted. You never know, it might help your relationship with him.

    Russians being held to a different standard than North Americans isn’t new in hockey. If you watched the Stanley Cup finals, you got to see Jim Hughson ripping on Ilya Kovalchuk, who was playing with a bad back. If you went back and re-wound the plays (I did) you’d find that many times, Hughson’s complaints were completely unfair. I couldn’t help but wonder if the fact that Kovalchuk was a Russian played into it – when Steve Yzerman could hardly move on a bad knee, the Canadian media talked about what a hero he was, not the fact that he kind of looked like a liability on the ice because he couldn’t move.

    In other words, I kind of agree that there’s a fair bit of bias against Russian players in the Canadian media. They don’t get cut the same slack that Canadian players do, whether they’re playing injured or not in the mood to talk to the media one day. This whole episode is just another example of it. It’s been nice to see some of the online blowback from it – Matheson wrote a sort of wounded blog post about the whole thing while Jones clarified that he expects to deal with the Yakupov who is nice to him in the future. Jones still sort of seems to be missing the point – who cares if Yakupov talks to the media – but maybe, just maybe, those guys will think twice in the future before kicking a guy for something that they didn’t see halfway around the world.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    42 Responses to Yakupov and the Media

    1. dawgbone
      January 10, 2013 at

      “You crazy Russians, always looking to back out of deals and run back home!”

      “I’m Muslim, not Russian”

      “What, so only Russians run back home and back out of deals? What are you, racist?”

      • a sad day
        January 12, 2013 at

        Pity Nail Yakupov, when he realizes he has simply exchanged one gulag for another.

        Greeted at the camp gate by lifetime trolls Jones and Matheson, he must wonder what lies ahead. A long road I would think, considering the records of these politburo stooges , where skill and creativity count for little, bigotry and small mindedness for much.

        Sadly, this has become the Edmonton brand, defended by the guardians of mediocrity who attack anybody and anything from the outside world, and reduce hockey – the beautiful, complex international game – to its lowest common denominator.

        Little wonder these cheap shot artists imagine they speak for the city. Last year it was “run Hemsky out of town”, this year its Yakupov. What’s worse,they claim the mantle of a time when we were truely on the map, when a Jarri Kurri as much as a Wayne Gretzky was embraced by the fans. When there was magic in the mix.

        How times have changed.

    2. Triumph
      January 10, 2013 at

      The thing about media slanders is that they work. They work as long as the media are the only way to access the player. They work as long as there aren’t other arbiters around. So yeah, obviously you and I and people who devote a great deal of energy to following the NHL are going to see them as transparent and a way of enforcing the implicit media quid pro quo – I get quotes from you, and in return, I paint you as a decent human being who wants to help the team.

      I don’t know if the Edmonton media are revealing their implicit biases or (less likely) knowing that some portion of Oiler fans are already going to lack trust in a Russian player, and are using that mistrust to sell newspapers/get hits. But I expect this kind of talk to follow him the entire time he’s in Edmonton.

    3. rw970
      January 10, 2013 at

      I found the Staples argument quite odd:

      1. Hockey is a hard thing to do, and requires commitment, and an absence of distraction.
      2. By not taking time off from hockey to speak to reporters, Yakupov is creating a distraction.
      3. So the very act of attempting to avoid distraction is the cause of the distraction itself.


      • January 10, 2013 at

        I had the exact same thought. Staples states that, “It takes tremendous commitment, discipline, courage, talent. It also takes singular focus.” I would have assumed that the “singular focus” meant looking after hockey first.

    4. January 10, 2013 at

      Well, I’ve talked to someone who was at the WJC and I’m told that the setup there was a bit different from the North American setup. To start with, there was no dressing room access. Players were brought into a mixed zone to speak to the media. The Russian PR people seemed to be the ones deciding who would come out to talk. It’s not like Yakupov was hiding in the trainer’s room while a sad pack of media gathered around his stall. It’s probably also worth mentioning that the Russian PR guys care less about placating the rapacious Canadian media pack than, say, Hockey Canada or the Edmonton Oilers do.

      I’d be interested in hearing more specifics on this, if there were any available.

      Off-hand, it sounds almost similar to the system used by the Canadian women’s national soccer team during Olympic qualifying in Vancouver in January 2012. The players were private in their dressing room and would come out into a mix zone. The difference, maybe, is that the players’ route to their bus went through the mix zone, so a player would walk through and if no reporter wanted them they’d get on the bus and if a reporter did want them they’d stand and do their interviews. It’s a fairly standard system, I was made to understand by more experienced reporters present, although I haven’t got first-hand knowledge.

      Anyway, in this setup the only way a player could dodge the media entirely was to bolt onto the bus before the media arrived or sneak out. So if Jones, Matheson et al are used to the sort of system I saw in Vancouver and they knew that Yakupov wasn’t available for the media, then they could easily assume that Yakupov deliberately hid himself because, in their experience, he’d have had to.

    5. Sliderule
      January 10, 2013 at

      Sample media questions that Nail may have intentionally or unintentionally avoided.
      Sample one Nail your letting your team down
      Sample two.Nail your trying to do it all yourself.
      Sample three.Nail you don’t seem to be scoring shouldn’t you shoot more
      Is it any wonder that teenage kids would avoid talking to media.

    6. Derek
      January 10, 2013 at

      Excellent journalism.

    7. Derek
      January 10, 2013 at

      “The worse any designated minority or alien group behaves in a liberal society, the bigger become the lies of Political Correctness in covering up for that group.”

      • Tyler Dellow
        January 10, 2013 at

        I’m a little confused by this. This post is an example of the “lies of political correctness”?

      • January 10, 2013 at

        Tyler: The only way this quote relates to the article is if you put the MSM in the role of the designated minority, the NHL fanbase as the liberal society, and the attempt at covering up for that group being Dave Staples’ defense for that group.

        It is the only logical derivation.

    8. Lee
      January 10, 2013 at

      Some days it seems like the Oilogosphere is predominantly populated with junior high school girls.

      EVERYONE is guilty of bias. It’s part of the human condition. Lowetide criticizes the MSM while seemingly ignoring his own internal biases (Hemsky, Omark, Gilbert, MacT, etc.). More importantly, he fails to realize that he tacitly empowers this same ‘Russian’ bias by failing to moderate against similar commentary on his own blog.

      No one is blameless when it comes to this innate behavior. Those who judge others and claim the high ground for themselves, at best, fail to recognize their own failings and at worst, are hypocrites.

      • Triumph
        January 10, 2013 at

        I don’t like the ‘EVERYONE is guilty of bias’ argument. It’s certainly true, but it’s a license to fail to improve. Am I probably a bit racist? Yeah, I am, at a subconscious level – my internal reaction is going to be a bit different if I’m walking down a deserted New York City street and see two black men versus two white men coming towards me. But the point is that I’m able to admit that to myself rather than jumping on the idea that either A: I’m right to have this reaction (by citing crime statistics and the like, as if that informs my subconscious at all) or B: Everyone has this reaction, therefore I’m right to have it or C: Denying that I have it at all.

        The point is that the media are using people’s biases to sell newspapers or attract Internet hits, and that to me is unseemly. The above examples Tyler cites are sports journalism at its worst. I have my biases, but I don’t have a newspaper column. Yakupov hasn’t even played a game yet and the media is already asking him if he’s stopped beating his wife.

    9. Lee
      January 10, 2013 at

      Triumph, I agree. In this particular instance, I just think improvement would be better realized by Lowetide cleaning up his own backyard rather than pointing the fingers at others. I’m not sure what the latter approach ever actually accomplishes other than making people feel better about themselves.

      • January 10, 2013 at

        …how does LT moderating the comment section on his blog (where anyone can say anything they like, and it’s attributed to them and their own views, and not to the views of LT) change the issue that the Edmonton MSM is engaging in racism themselves, and already have the knives out for a new player purely because of those racial biases?

        Pointing out hypocrisy and racism in the “respected” MSM is way more different than racism in the comments on an internet blog. The MSM, as they like to remind everyone, are professionals, are objective, and hold themselves to a higher standard. Except for when they don’t, and then someone else needs to point out that they’re failing to meet their own “higher standard”. No one in the world gives a shit about the comment section of a page on the internet, because it’s widely understood that such places tend to be an unmitigated river of absolute shit. I don’t care if someone says something racist int he comments on a youtube video, but I care if a news reporter spins the news to fit his own personal racist bias, and that’s perfectly normal.

    10. Derek
      January 10, 2013 at

      The most dangerous cities in the USA have 1 thing in common.

      Answer: Majority of Blacks

      This is a stat that does not make me racist, to me it is the same as saying Men are taller than Women generally

      • Subversive
        January 10, 2013 at

        Only 1 thing in common? Really? Are you sure?

        The thing that makes it racist is that it’s probably not the only thing they have in common. Cherry picking that particular thing that they happen to have in common and then using it in a racist way (ie: to imply that black people are more dangerous) is what makes it racist.

        • Derek
          January 10, 2013 at

          If I said Blacks are better basketball players , you would say nothing.

          • nanodummy
            January 11, 2013 at

            I’d say you’re an idiot. It’s like claiming “Whites are better hockey players”.

            There is no evidence that isn’t easily debunkable. When it comes to racist simplifications like this, you ignore a massive set of social circumstances that might compel marginalized youth into a low cost competitive sport while middle class kids from northern backgrounds into a higher cost sport. Both sports feature world class athlete’s playing long, difficult schedules.

            And even that statement grossly over simplifies things.

            Stop being a troll.

    11. Lee
      January 10, 2013 at

      It thought it was ‘unseemly’ when Lowetide insinuated that Oilers’ management is incompetent in the realm of player development, because they didn’t provide Omark (a player for whom LT has a personal bias) with sufficient opportunity in his estimation. Never mind that numerous prospects are tracking favorably.

      It could be argued that LT’s sharing of these personal biases helps to foment a certain type of discourse that ‘sells’ his blog (i.e. Vanilla is boring. Controversy gets eyeballs). I would suspect however, it’s simply just a case of someone failing to recognize their own ingrained biases.

      Bias=human nature?

      • Tyler Dellow
        January 10, 2013 at

        I don’t think you entirely understand what you’re talking about Lee. Let’s say that your job is to build a hockey team or that you’re interested in a hockey team and the work that is done by men building it. You might, quite reasonably, have a bias towards players that don’t suck. When you see someone who you think is talented not getting a fair shake while lesser guys do, you might comment on that. A bias towards better hockey players is, in those circumstances, a fine bias to have. Lowetide thinks Omark’s a good player. I do too.

        If you’re purportedly covering a hockey team though, and you’re biased against guys who don’t talk to you or Russians (or both) and you let that bias affect your opinion of the guy, to the point that it’s blatantly noticeable to others, you’ve got a bias problem.

        So yeah, everyone’s got biases. Some of them aren’t problems and, for the ones that are, just giving in to them isn’t really a solution.

      • TigerUnderGlass
        January 10, 2013 at

        “Never mind that numerous prospects are tracking favorably.”

        Who among these numerous prospects tracking so favorably were not drafted first overall or did not sign with the team because the Oilers are so bad they were bound to get playing time.

        Any prospects tracking well for EDM right now are only there because of incompetent management.

        ie. I don’t get your point.

        • Lee
          January 10, 2013 at

          Jeff Petry, Devan Dubnyk, Ladislav Smid

          Btw, why should the 1st overalls be excluded from a proper assessment? Some teams do screw those up, albeit less of late.

          • TigerUnderGlass
            January 10, 2013 at

            None of those three are prospects.

            First overall should be excluded for many reasons that are obvious to all but a few. If I have to explain then it probably isn’t worth the time to do so.

    12. Lee
      January 10, 2013 at

      “Lowetide thinks Omark’s a good player. I do too.”

      Pundits are entitled to this bias/opinion. Making the case that Oil management is incompetent in the area of player development on the basis of this player alone however empowers bias to override impartial assessment, particularly when as I mentioned, numerous prospects are tracking favorably in their development.

      How do you rationalize the two? Is Player Personnel only partially incompetent in their abilities or perhaps incompetent a fraction of the time? Or perhaps wholly incompetent but lucky? Caution: your answer to this question could reveal bias.

      On the other point, I’m not arguing for ‘giving in’ but rather, making the case for personal accountability over finger pointing. Hence the ‘junior high’ reference.

      • NKB
        January 10, 2013 at

        I think you’re confusing bias and opinion. These are not interchangeable terms. Bias hampers your ability to have a reasoned opinion. I could think Omark is a good player, in your example, and also believe because of other factors that Oiler management is incompetent without any bias.

    13. Lee
      January 10, 2013 at

      NKB, the larger point is that bias influences the opinions we arrive at. There are many in the Oilogosphere who ignore the good things Oiler management accomplishes, or at the very least, they ignore or downplay them because they aren’t convenient to arriving at an unbiased opinion & assessment.

      I also think the Oilogosphere simply can’t resist the opportunity to take potshots at the MSM whenever the opportunity (however slight) presents itself and it’s highly debatable that the independents operate to any greater standard of ethics.

      As one example, I can post to a MSM blog directly disagreeing with the columnist’s opinion and even go so far as to criticize them directly, and assuming no profanity, the comment would be allowed to stand as public record for all to see. You can’t say the same for many blogs (TD being a notable exception) as many are simply too thin skinned to tolerate this kind of dissent however innocuous.

      • dawgbone
        January 10, 2013 at

        But like Dellow was saying, what you are biased against matters.

        If you don’t think Player X is a good player because he doesn’t skate well, that’s fine. Skating matters in hockey and it’s a reasonable bias.

        If you don’t think Player X is a good player because he doesn’t talk to the media, well that seems like a pretty worthless bias to have as it doesn’t impact his ability to play the game.

        This carries on to your point about Oilers management. I have a bias against Oilers management, because over the last half a dozen years they’ve made a lot of terrible decisions. I’m not biased against Tambellini because he struggles to make coherent points in a press conference, but I am biased against him because he’s made some terrible player acquisitions. Have they made some good moves? Sure. But for the most part it’s been a bunch of really bad decisions, so the majority of the comments should be negative.

    14. FastOil
      January 10, 2013 at

      I don’t think the old farts quite get the permanence and timelines of the internet versus print.

      Their classless and disgusting behavior to me is about the conscious or not fear of diminishing access. They were around in the old days of the team and media. The idea of anyone closing the door on them or setting that precedent makes them, well, hysterical bitches. The dynasty is rising again, gotta get my foot in that door, don’t you know who I am? Yak was half a world away and hasn’t played an NHL game yet, perhaps an overreaction?

      The same thing likely fuels attacks on stats pieces; fear of the blogger and young guys squeezing them out . Plus it’s way harder than just throwing out an half baked opinions – takes up far too much of the day, even cutting into happy hour.

      Entitlement is an ugly thing.

      • Lee
        January 10, 2013 at

        Biased opinion without a shred of fact to support it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

        You know, it’s possible that they report these things solely because it gets the kind of attention these blog posts have given it today and the reasoning has very little to do with the columnist’s inherent biases, fears, hysteria, etc. Like it or don’t, Yak not showing for a scrum HAS proven to be a story as evidenced by the massive waste of bandwidth allocated to it since.

        I think many in the Oilogosphere confuse sports reporters with journalists and believe they’re beholden to the same standards. They’re not. They’re glorified gossip columnists and are free to editorialize willy nilly as are the majority of independent bloggers. What’s laughable is either side thinking they have more credibility or ethics than the other.

        It’s ALL personal bias and white noise and that’s fine, we can pick and choose those pundits whose bias and opinions most align with our own. Like the players, each content provider will ultimately be judged on their performance (i.e. the quality of the content they provide) and not by their vainglorious attempts to claim the high ground from their rivals.

        • Kent Wilson
          January 10, 2013 at

          Clearly your bias is clouding your judgement, so I’m going to dismiss it out of hand. Of course, that’s probably just my bias reacting against your bias and – oh, look at that, we’ve stumbled into a Gordian Knot.

    15. Bruce McCurdy
      January 10, 2013 at

      the traditional Russian approach: a contract is valid only when it suits us.

      I guess Russians must secretly have been running the NHL these last few months.

      • January 10, 2013 at

        Comment of the day, right here, ladies and gentlemen.

      • jrrknight@gmail.com
        January 11, 2013 at

        For the win

    16. Pingback: Spectors Hockey | NHL Blog Beat – January 11, 2013.

    17. January 11, 2013 at

      This was the media setup at the WJCs in Saskatoon in 2010:

      - Tournament staff comes around in the third period to the media, takes down names of players that the media wants to interview after the game
      - At end of third period, media stake out a spot in the mixed zone area
      - Players talk to their coaches, etc. They come out randomly from the locker room to the mixed zone based on the media requests.
      - Some players don’t come, or take a long time to come. I found this especially true of European players… I put in a request to talk to Roman Josi that took a while, but it was probably because he was nursing a wrist injury. I basically did that interview (my only post-game one, I was working for Puck Daddy and that really wasn’t the type of coverage we were looking for) because no one was covering that game (vs. Latvia), he was a NHL prospect, and he had a special night sparking a comeback win.
      - Nikita Filatov, straight off being stripped a new one by his coach and losing his captaincy, did come out and face the media.

      I assume the issue in Europe was the procedure followed by the volunteers. I’m not sure there are IIHF standards except for the preference for the mixed zone over locker room scrums. Which really should be appropriate at the WJCs since we’re dealing with teenagers here, a number of whom aren’t legally adults. From what I can tell the IIHF lets the local organizing committee run things, which would make sense for the differences here.

    18. JonB
      January 11, 2013 at

      The funniest thing about the Matheson backlash was his response “..but who will get the dressing room access for fans?”

      The old way of covering sports is so battered and bleeding its shocking when you hear a last gasp like this.

      Has anyone ever read a newspaper recap of an Oiler game? You know the one that takes the entire front page of the Sports page and then carries three small paragraphs on page C2. The one where they actually write out goal by goal a summary of the game in case you are one of the 19 remaining fans who haven’t watched the game live, on tape, on highights, on the internet or some mobile device.

      And to spice up the banality of their crap filler they add a couple of high quality comments from players “..we just need to play a whole 60 minutes” or “we need to get off to better starts”

      I have no desire for a post game comment from another Oiler player ever again

      • May 7, 2014 at

        Th’tas the best answer of all time! JMHO

    19. Mac
      January 12, 2013 at

      “Hockey is a hard, hard game to play at the highest levels. It takes tremendous commitment, discipline, courage, talent. It also takes singular focus. A player does not need distractions, but he creates one when he fails to do something so simple as talk to reporters when they have a few questions.

      Nothing much was required of Yakupov here. Just give a few canned answers to a few canned questions. No big deal. Simple. Just do it, then move on to the important stuff.”

      Um…so Staples point is ‘do the important stuff’ (which I have to assume is being good at hockey, so…check….) but the best way to accomplish the ‘important stuff’ is to add in a bunch of unimportant stuff (canned answers to canned questions) first? *head explodes*

    20. capsyoungguns
      January 12, 2013 at

      Fascinating piece. Reminds me of the Vancouver Olympics and how much criticism the Russians, especially Ovechkin, received for not speaking with the English media except in small carefully controlled bits. Later it came out that the players were following orders, that the Russian organization told them that the English media’s access to the Russian team was to be carefully controlled. Cultural differences and hard especially on the Russian players who get to shoulder the blame.

    21. Jim
      January 14, 2013 at

      That is a pretty disgusting bit of screed from Adler. As well as apparently having some personal axe to grind regarding Yakupov (he has been dishing inflammatory bs since before the draft) he doesn’t appear to know the difference between race and ethnicity. Once upon a time I thought the guy had something to say. He sounds really bitter and twisted now. I usually just click on past when I see his name.

      You’re a Nail? I’ll be a hammer!

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